Orlando, FL – Picture this. One morning you wake up with symptoms unlike anything you’ve experienced before. Instead of scheduling a professional consultation with your primary care physician, hoping they can squeeze you in for an impromptu appointment, you pull out your smartphone and receive a diagnosis through an app, all while lying in bed – no hours spent in a waiting room involved. While telehealth has been on the rise, recent technological developments are shaping the industry and changing the way patients receive treatment.

Whether you fear the thought of AI powered services or not, it’s pretty safe to say that virtual healthcare is the way of the future. WebMD, one of the most popular symptom-checking websites, has given users access to information that wasn’t always privy to them without a trip to the doctor’s office. Now, they’re extending their reach by moving to smartphones with their own app. The app will differentiate itself from its web version by including medication reminders, a physician directory, a drug and vitamin database and other educational content – creating a pathway for other web-based sites to break into a new segment of clientele. But, what’s new in telehealth doesn’t stop there.

At the 2019 Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference, partnering companies Netsmart and American Well announced their new telehealth service designed to “significantly improve health outcomes but lower costs by empowering providers to deliver care in the lowest acuity setting possible.” With the opioid crisis at the forefront of health concerns, the companies are integrating their telehealth technology and EHR platform to allow specialists to hold remote addiction therapy sessions with patients.

“This integrated workflow enables the delivery of real-time access to an addiction specialist that otherwise would not be accessible”, both companies stated.

But, what if you don’t have a smartphone? With a recent green light given by the HHS Office of Inspector General to a virtual healthcare company and pharmaceutical manufacturer, some patients may now be loaned a free smartphone to “track their drug therapy adherence via a mobile digital health app.” The company, whom remains unidentified, will loan patients a smartphone, with limited capabilities, for a 12-week period if the patient meets their list of requirements. The concept, once implemented, may pave the path for other companies to identify ways to provide digital services to patients who aren’t equipped with the right tools to receive them.

Why This Matters – 

Today, convenience is driving consumer expectations. Healthcare professionals and providers are realizing the benefit of integrating AI into their services, extending their reach to patients who they may have never been able to service before. In rural areas in the U.S., there are only 39.8 physicians for every 100,000 people. Compare that to the 53.3 physicians available for every 100,000 people in urban areas and it’s clear as to why telehealth is on the rise.

With a focus on servicing a segment of clients who otherwise may not be able to receive care, telehealth is creating a need for innovation. Companies that are able to find new, unique approaches to servicing clients that don’t have physical access to healthcare will stand out against their competition as telehealth shapes the way consumers seek health care and treatment.

About the Author:

Khye Tucker is an Innovation Strategist in Columbus, OH. With a passion for writing and a background in communications, Khye strives to bring brand stories to life through a fresh perspective, innovative thinking and creative storytelling.